How to remain focused, long term

Published Nov 03, 2017

How do we retain constant focus at work? Day after day, week after week, month, year. How do we avoid feeling like we aren’t doing enough, we aren’t doing it right or we cannot be as good as the people we look up to?
How do we ensure at the end of each day, we feel satisfied, we sleep with contentment and we can go to sleep everyday, knowing we made the best use of our day?

It feels nice to accomplish stuff. It feels nice to leave work and know you smashed it, nailed it, whatever colloquial expression you use.
Sometimes we feel this way, most times we do not. If you do everyday, then this article probably isn’t for you, you have it figured out, now go write about that 😉 otherwise, stick around.

So I spent a lot of time reading content on productivity in the past because of the struggles I have had trying to get stuff done. I have had to read a lot of self help articles, books, quick tips or hacks to be productive, to maintain a clear focus.

Over the last year, I have consumed enough material to make all the new ones feel repetitive, even plagiarized. From how work a 200 hr week to how to seat around all day, do nothing and still be productive.
And now

I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness

We can all imagine what a perfect day feels like. We might have them once in a while when we are under pressure or inspired but a lot of times it doesn’t happen.
We usually have a somewhat productive day or an unproductive one or a cool one right ? But it seems, if you are inspired by some people like Mozart, Einstein, Tesla, Da Vinci, insert your favorite, they could do it, day after day for extended periods of time.

What does it take?

Focus

How do you bring your mind to focus on your daily tasks and attain a level of focus like that of monks or meditators ?

We are very focused on some days but not focused at all on others. We might be more focused the day we read a self help article and grow less inspired as the week progresses, so really, we need to ensure that it is our nature. That we nurture that into our character.
We need to figure out what it takes to be inspired, to start to focus and how to sustain our focus for a long time.

Board the train and don’t look back

This is the first step and usually the hardest to take. Making the choice to change, finding the conviction and heading in the direction towards your goals.
After reflection, after you realize that you need to change, you need to garner the will power to take the necessary steps to move in that direction. This is not easy at all, it means giving up a lot of things that you’re used to, it means having to cut off on some wasteful habits, friends, sleep, whatever it is that is holding you back.

You need to realize that you have to make this decision for it is the first step towards greatness. It is the square one, you’ll find yourself here when you fall short of ambition or inspiration.

Cut-off anything that you feel is not leading you to your goals

So, you are going to be a new person the day you’ll decide to board the train. If you are serious about making change in your life, you need to identify the things that will potentially derail your progress.
If you don’t do this, those things will drag you back to square one

Strong convictions precede great actions

That is why the first two steps are really important.
Once you are inspired and you start working, you need to to find ways to ensure you do not fall back into your old ways. You need some work ethic. A philosophy of work to ensure you can sustain focus in the long term.

Get enough sleep everyday

Sleeping helps you recharge your batteries. If you sleep for only 3 hours a night, your productivity will constantly drop during the day. Human beings require sleep for among other reasons, memory augmentation and healing, which as you can imagine are important.

Sleep can feel like a waste of time though, however helpful it is. There are many different sleeping practices that can help you cheat your way through this counterintuitive act because, apparently, sleeping happens in stages, each stage serving a certain purpose and some of them can be done without.

You might have heard of polyphasic sleep. A lot of people practice monophasic sleep patterns, which just really means they sleep once at night. With polyphasic sleep, you sleep in intervals distributed throughout the day. You can then get less sleep but still gain the benefits.

We need sleep, however we choose to have it. We need at least 5 hours of sleep everyday. My recommendation is to sleep for 4hours at night and take two 30mins naps later during the day making for a total of 5 hours. That has always helped me stay ahead of the game.

Not sleeping enough will increase heart disease risk, diabetes, cause mood swings, give you a low sex drive and cause you weaker knee balance.
It will put you at a disadvantage in the bigger picture of things.

Find exercises to increase your focus

There are tons of techniques that people out there use.

I use the Pomodoro technique. With the Pomodoro, you have 25min work schedules know as pomodoros with breaks in between.
The breaks should ideally be longer the more pomodors you take, like 15 minutes break after every 3 pomodoros then back to 5 minute breaks.
I feel like the reason this technique works is because it establishes a need for progress, a need to do something because time is running out. It creates a sense of urgency.

The reward at the end (some time to relax) also inspires you to keep working. I would really recommend this technique as it has been tried and tested.
Read more about it for yourself.

note

Sometimes when doing a pomodoro, you can be in the groove/flow yet be expected to take a break, say your timer went off.
It is fine to ignore the schedule and continue working and get back to the pomodoro as soon as you feel less inspired.

Find an application on the internet that allows you to do this. I use Be Focused. It is a mac application but there is plenty of others for different platforms.

Have a to-do list

When you start your day, you should identify the main tasks you need to accomplish. List them in order of priority and work on them in that order.
Ask yourself, what does a successful day look like and get to work starting with the most important or urgent tasks.

Minimize distractions

The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude

There are a lot of distractions out there, from social media, email, slack, people, noises, short concentration, notifications. None of these things are inherently negative but they tend to make us less and less capable of concentrating for a long time.

In positive psychology, flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

All the notifications are meant to get our attention by stimulating our brains, in effect, we become less capable of concentrating on things that require great thinking and commitment. You cannot get in the zone or in the flow if every 2 minutes you have to check the top right of your screen because something pops us or if your phone vibrates 👎 so you need to minimize of those when you are working.

And then there is the people factor. Honestly, a lot of people never get any work done. A lot of people are lazy, they are a distraction. People used to poke me a lot, come to my desk and talk about random nonesense for 10 minutes, 15 minutes.
They leave you to struggle and get back in the zone which is very hard as someone else will soon come by and distract you, or lunch break, some loud noise in the room or yet another random meeting or some twitter notification.
I felt like they were punishing me, I did not understand why they were doing that. I just wanted to be left alone
I had enough at some point, I got angry and bought a pair of noise cancelling headphones and simply ignored everyone when I was working.
Whenever someone would come around to waste my time , I would simply say ‘yeah, sure meeen’ , affirming what they were saying, a smile on my face shaking my head to the tune of Dubstep 🔥 as I continued working.
They would soon enough get it and walk🚶

That might be rude, maybe you cannot handle that, so I will give you a framework for social engineering. Acknowledge their presence, say you are busy and promise to get right back at them.

Reflection

Reflecting gives you perspective. You look at the day from an observers viewpoint. You get to see what you did right, what you could have done better.
This helps you to fine tune habits and iterate better everyday.

Reflection will also help you focus on the good things that you did, feel better about yourself and reinforce them and soon enough you can form habits out of those actions.

It will also enable you to see the bigger picture of things, why some things are relevant, why some aren’t.

Conclusion

To wrap it up, in order to gain and sustain focus, we need need to first set our priorities right in our minds. That means realizing what is important for us and deciding what direction we want to take in life.

If we are really inspired to head in that direction, we can look at ways to sustain that energy, ways to balance work and life, ways to learn from our mistakes, new ways to learn faster and smarter.

I will be writing soon about refined learning methods, how to learn stuff really fast. How you can learn things that take 5 years in 1 year. Ever heard of the law of accelerated intelligence.

As our amount of accumulated knowledge increases exponentially, the minimum amount of learning we need to do in order to productively participate or be a top performer in society increases. In other words, accelerated societal change necessitates accelerated intelligence

More than ever, we are required to learn more things in a short time. We need to adapt new ways to learn stuff so we can cope and not be left out. We need to find the most effective ways of learning, ways to augment our intelligence, find ways to remember better. That is why you need to follow me ✉️ for more articles on these issues.

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